Fearing it less.
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood more, so that we may fear it less.”–Marie Curie
Marie Curie, who wrote those words, is credited with being responsible for the use of radiation therapy in medicine for over the last 100 years plus. Joanie and millions of other cancer patients have been treated with it without knowing who they could thank for the procedure that was being used to help them fight their disease.
In June, 1996, on the eve of the beginning of Joanie’s radiation therapy, we didn’t know Curie’s words, but when Joanie and I would talk about what was going on with her when this all started, my words to her were, “Knowing is better than not knowing, even if the news is bad. If we know what we’re facing, we can make a plan to deal with it.”
As I reflect on it now, she knew what I was talking about. She had lived with the abnormal bleeding for a far longer time than she admitted, and the not knowing must have weighed heavily on her mind, but she had said nothing to me about it until it started to get out of control. Instead she had wandered alone in the fog of fear that comes from not knowing or understanding what is happening. Now we knew, and while the fear was still there, it was less.
In the few short weeks since Joanie was diagnosed, we had dealt with the shock, disbelief, and fear, as well as the disappointment of the failure of the first attempts that would have rid her of the cancer. As things developed, and we learned more about the next step, both of us began to fear this threat to her life less, and the difference now was how she handled it.
Joanie’s attitude underwent a transformation as she got settled at Ginny’s home in St. Paul. She had gone from feeling helpless to hopeful. She had gone from being fearful to being optimistic, and she had made it known to me that she was going to fight this thing, and she was not going to lose.
My job as a caregiver now was to make her life as easy as I could, even if I couldn’t be there with her every day over the next six weeks. While the fear may not have been as great now, it was still there, and it was for me to see that the routine of her life with the radiation treatment held no surprises for her.
On Monday, so she would know how she was to get where she needed to be every day, we made the fifteen minute trip from Ginny’s in St. Paul to the U of M campus in Minneapolis, and then, so she could see an alternative to the freeway, I showed her another way of getting to the hospital she could use if she chose to. She had a car, she had a cell phone, she knew where to park, and she knew how to get to Katie’s office for the treatment. She also knew some good places for lunch on the campus, or on Grand Avenue near Ginny’s, and she knew where the Target store was. I think knowing where the nearest Target store was as important as anything.
On Tuesday, we met with Dr. Carson, for her post operative examination, and Carson was pleased with how well Joanie had recovered from the surgery. We then went to see Dr. Dusenbery and she would receive the first of the external beam radiation treatments.
Treatment time, we were to find, from the time she got to the department until the time she walked out the door, wouldn’t take more than 15 to 20 minutes.
As we left the hospital for the parking ramp, I asked her how she was feeling now that the first one was over. She said she felt okay about it, and now that she had been through one and understood the process better she was less apprehensive, or as Madame Curie would have said, “she feared it less.” Then she smiled and said, “Only 25 more to go.” She was already looking forward to the end.
After we left the campus, we headed for the airport, where she reluctantly dropped me off, and I reluctantly went to catch my flight to Bismarck. She knew I would be back on the weekend, and that seemed to make her a bit more comfortable about saying good bye, plus, by the time I came back, there would only be 22 left to go.